13/07/2013

Mutter Paneer

Is it paleo? Not even slightly! Is it primal? It could pass as primal ...

Should such a recipe even be here? Living in the Ice Age is my food blog - the things I eat and the things I enjoy.

Mutter Paneer is a North Indian favourite - simply, curd cheese and peas in a spicy sauce.

Mutter Paneer is also one of my favourite curries.

I expect the first raised eyebrow and furrowed brow will be over the peas. Yes, peas are legumes, but I would encourage you to read Mark Sissons' article on green beans and peas: Are Peas and Green Beans Healthy?

These peas are from the vine, hand podded and about as fresh as you can get. From Mark's article, I note that cooking dramatically reduces the phytate and despite his lack of firm details around agglutinin, we know from n=1 that eating freshly picked peas is not an issue. That said, this is not a regular meal by any stretch.

Back to it ...

Peas, podded. Cheese, unpacked and cubed up. How much? 8oz of cheese and a cup of peas will do admirably.

Cheese? Not paleo, no. Primal, yes, with strings attached ... and those strings are raw, fatty and fermented. Hands up! I bought this cheese and it's pasteurised, set with lemon juice.

Paneer can be procured from most supermarkets in the UK now - it's simply cured curd cheese. Being North Indian and a firm favourite amongst vegetarian Sikhs, the cheese is cured with lemon juice rather than rennet ... which comes from cows.

You can make it yourself by warming up milk, curing with lemon juice which will separate the milk into cottage cheese curds, strain the whey from the curds and then press the curds overnight. Or, buy a block.

The peas should be put on to cook through, which for fresh peas, I prefer a light simmer for a longer time than boiling for a short time.

Set them simmering and let's make the sauce.

For the portion we're cooking (8oz of cheese and a cup of peas, for two) shred a small onion and sauté gently in a frying pan with ghee or butter for about 15 minutes during which time, the onions will soften and caramelise. Sprinkle over your spice blend: turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek and asafoetida; a teaspoon of the first three, half a teaspoon of the last two. Black pepper and sea salt, too. Cloves are used quite a lot in North Indian cooking - add in two or three at this stage.

We're going to blend the sauce, so scrape the onions into your blending container. I use a hand blender and a Pyrex pouring jar.

Next, tomato. You want one or two plum tomatoes, peeled, which you do by drawing an X into the bottom of each and immersing in boiling water for about 60 seconds ... that pan of peas you've got will do fine. Retrieve the tomatoes and the skin should peel off easily.

Dice and add to your blending container along with three or four cloves of garlic ... and blend.

In your frying pan, add a little more ghee (or butter) and fry off the cheese cubes. Gently, so as not to colour them up - I prefer the white to shine through, but some do prefer the cheese firmer and coloured up. Your choice, but I would advise the former.

Pour the sauce over and warm through.

Drain the peas and toss into the cheese and sauce along with your preferred amount of fresh green chillies.

Add some fresh coriander, reserving a few leaves as garnish.

Serve out, fresh leaves for garnish and a couple of cubes of butter to make the dish especially creamy.

Sufficient for two ... or one portion for a hungry Yorkshireman. Grab your diggers and pile in!

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